Rarely does a concept and body of work to back it up come along that begs for a museum exhibition, as much as the AFRICAN MENAGERIE project of Brian Jarvi. Seven large panoramic panels, the largest of which is 9 feet by five feet, form a sweeping, grand panorama of the African savannah and the animal kingdom contained therein. Over fifty related research sketches and mixed media studies accompany the panorama; along with subtly and intelligently integrated signage describing the wildlife and ecology.
Documenting the project will be a coffee-table book by Todd Wilkinson, author of such books as Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, and Kent Ullberg: Monuments to Nature. Wilkinson's book, will be available to tour venues to sell in their book stores and gift shops.
Brian Jarvi is widely recognized as among the very best painters of Africa today. AN AFRICAN MENAGERIE is unparalleled in its breadth, depth, and scope, and sure to be a hit with visitors wherever it is displayed.
David J. Wagner, Ph.D.
October 1 - December 21, 2017
Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University, KS
January 20 - April 5, 2018
Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum, Oradell, NJ
April 26 - July 15, 2018
Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH
Additional Dates available, beginning August 15, 2018
Monumental Statements About Our World
by M. Stephen Doherty
Former Editor-in-Chief of American Artist magazine and current Editor of PleinAir
In 1857, the great Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church unveiled his 40" x 90" painting of Niagara Falls. The fascination with and publicity about the painting brought out more than 100,000 people who each paid twenty-five cents to see what was then considered a colossal masterwork. That enthusiastic public response was not accidental or unexpected.
From the very beginning of his celebrated career, Church attracted attention to his work by creating large, blockbuster sized landscape paintings of exotic, unknown, and captivatingly dramatic locations. Some of those depictions were reports of what the artist actually discovered on location, and other paintings were imaginative compilations of the plant material, animals, volcanos, rivers, waterfalls, and people the artist sketched and painted when he made trips to Central and South America, Cuba, and Mexico. The challenges he set for himself in terms of both the physical and creative aspects of these projects were monumental.
Church was not the only great American artist who built his career on attention-getting, large- scale paintings. Albert Bierstadt filled massive canvases with dramatic storms, skyscraper sized waterfalls, and remote mountain landscapes; and some of the best wildlife artists of the 20th century, including Carl Rungius, created large, curved dioramas for natural history museums by referring to studies created on location in Africa, South America, Europe, and the United States.
The challenge of painting massive canvases didn`t originate with American artists. Long before, European masters like Rubens, Tintoretto, Delacroix, and Monet proved their talents and physical capabilities by filling cathedrals, palaces, and castles with series of large-scale paintings. Their murals, frescoes, mosaics, and canvases celebrated successful battles, conquests by a monarch, miracles performed by a saint, or wonders of the natural world. And while they brought attention to the events depicted in the works of art, they also elicited wide respect for the talented artists who accomplished such amazing artistic feats.
The challenges that brought out the best in artists of the past continue to inspire artists who have something important to say through their major works. One of today`s most gifted and dedicated American artists is preparing to celebrate the wildlife species in Africa on an unprecedented scale. Brian Jarvi has spent the past fourteen years realizing a dream grounded in his childhood fascination with collections of local animal species and informed by his lifelong studies of Africa. He will complete a series of seven large-scale, interlocking panels and related supporting studies that summarizes his understanding of life on the continent and his hopes for the future. Together, these thoroughly researched images will achieve the scale and impact of the monumental work of art executed by Church, Bierstadt, Rungius, or other historic masters.
When Jarvi discusses his project, from its inception to its ultimate completion, it is clear he is a man of intellect, passion, talent, and perfection. "I`ve been studying, breathing, watching, eating, drawing and painting African images ever since my first trip to the continent in 1989," he explains. "I`ve made a total of twelve trips there, each lasting from ten days to a full month, and . . . Click to continue essay.
BRIAN JARVI'S AFRICAN MENAGERIE: THE INQUISITION Prospectus (Low Res 4.9 MB)
Essay on AFRICAN MENAGERIE by M. Stephen Doherty, MFA (13 MB)
Monumental Statements About Our World by M. Stephen Doherty (SAA Blog)
AFRICAN MENAGERIE: Introduction by Brian Jarvi (40 KB)
AFRICAN MENAGERIE: Artwork Descriptions (35 KB)
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